Obituary: Professor Ian Kidd, academic

Professor Ian Gray Kidd, academic. Born: 6 March 1922, in Chandernagore, French India. Died: 20 March, 2011, in Dundee, aged 89.

Ian Kidd, Emeritus Professor of Greek in the University of St Andrews and Fellow of the British Academy, died peacefully in Ninewells Hospital Dundee in the early hours of Sunday, 20 March. He will be remembered by colleagues, students and friends as an accomplished scholar, a fine teacher and a man who gave a lifetime of unstinting service to his university and the wider community.

Ian was born on 6 March, 1922 at Goretty, Chandernagore, in French India, where his father was working for the Angus Jute Company.

At the age of five he was brought to Dundee and looked after by grandparents and maiden aunts; his parents returned to their native city in 1933.

He attended Dundee High School, where his combination of academic excellence (and not only in classics) with sporting prowess (he was captain of rugby and a gifted golfer) led to his being made head boy and Dux of School.

After two years at St Andrews University, he was called up in 1942, was commissioned as lieutenant in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (and later the Seaforth Highlanders), and saw service in north Africa and Italy (he led the first British platoon to form part of the Allied crossing from Sicily to the mainland in September 1943), before being captured in January 1944 and spending the rest of the war in various prisoner of war camps.

Liberated in April 1945 and demobilised that September, he returned to his studies at St Andrews.

While he managed to maintain a social life rich in sporting activity and music (he was a very capable pianist and music remained a lifelong passion), his academic talents ensured that he graduated in 1947, in classics, with the highest Honours, winning the Arts Faculty's Miller Prize for the top first-class degree of the year.

From 1947 to 1949 he took a further classics degree (Greats) at Queen's College Oxford.

Meanwhile, in 1946, he had met Sheila Dow, a student contemporary of his (she was reading economics).

They married in 1949, settling in St Andrews when Ian was appointed assistant lecturer in Greek at the university, where he was to spend a distinguished career of almost four decades, culminating in a personal chair as Professor of Ancient Philosophy (1973-76) followed by his tenure of the chair of Greek (1976-87) in succession to Kenneth Dover.

Over that whole period, Ian gradually turned himself into a leading expert on Greek philosophy and science, especially the school of Stoicism.His list of publications includes notable contributions to the study of Plato and Platonism, but his crowning achievement, which made him a world authority on the subject, was a magisterial edition, in four volumes (with commentary and translation), of the fragments of the Stoic thinker Posidonius, one of antiquity's most remarkable polymaths.

To produce this work, the fruit in total of some 30 years' research, Ian needed to master a body of complex material which ranged across the domains (among others) of ethics, geography, history and physics. The edition is recognised as a major resource by all advanced students of Greek philosophy.

The reputation this edition helped win for Ian was no doubt a prime reason for his Fellowship of the British Academy, awarded in 1993.

But even before the Posidonius project was completed, Ian had achieved an international standing which was acknowledged in various ways, not least by his appointment as Visiting Professor in Classics at the University of Texas at Austin in 1965-6, and his membership of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, on two occasions (1971-2 and 1979-80).

In retirement his achievements were marked by his own university with the award of an honorary D.Litt. (2001).

Ian Kidd belonged to an always rare (but now endangered) species of academics who were committed to combining the highest standards of research with a record of great devotion to teaching and of unselfish service to the governance of their universities.

Ian's colleagues admired his sterling qualities (Kenneth Dover described him as a person of "absolute integrity"), while his students remember with deep warmth the kindness and helpfulness he unfailingly showed them.

It was a mixture of colleagues, former pupils, and scholarly admirers who came together to produce a volume of essays in his honour in 1995 under the title The Passionate Intellect, a phrase Ian himself had used in his inaugural lecture to sum up what he thought the most important aspect of ancient Greek culture.

Last but not least, the annals of St Andrews University will testify that he found time amid all his other work to serve, inter alia, as the Provost of St Leonard's College (1978-83), the Chancellor's Assessor (1989-98), and Vice-President of the University Court (1997-8).

In all respects, Ian Kidd led a life of exemplary dedication to the humane values of scholarship and to the educational ideals of the institution in which he spent his long career.

Sheila Kidd, whom Ian devotedly nursed through illness for several years, predeceased him in 2007. He is survived by his three sons, Anthony, Robin and Simon.